Getty Images J. Cole's Born Sinner features some very personal moments for…
- Posted on Dec 23rd 2009 2:00PM by Pat Pemberton
In a story showcasing rock 'n' roll's interesting bedfellows, Clemons tells Spinner how he learned that Springsteen had decided to go his own way. "These things that happened, they were just like a fantasy," he says of sharing the news with an ex-Beatle. "I guess that's the crowd I hung around with."
Clemons and Ringo were touring with Ringo's All-Star Band that year. The two were shooting the breeze in a Japanese hotel suite when Ringo answered Springsteen's call. After some idle chat, he handed the phone to the Big Man.
"When Bruce told me, 'Big Man, it's over,' I thought he was saying that being out with Ringo was over and I had to come home to get ready for his tour or his album," Clemons says. "I had no idea he was going to talk about breaking up the band. But as the conversation went on, I understood, and he said, 'Yeah, I'm breaking the band up, man. This is it. It's all over.' It was a harsh reality."
Luckily, he had Ringo, who knew a thing or two about band splits, nearby.
"Hearing Ringo say, 'Hey, man, I've been through this too' -- he got through it, so I figured I would get through it."
While Springsteen's decision would dramatically change Clemons' lifestyle, the sax player -- who'd been with the band since the early 70s -- said he understood.
"I was pretty upset," says Clemons, who also related the tale in his book 'Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales,' written with Don Reo. "But, you know, the reality of it came to me: Every man wants to leave his own footprints in the sand sometimes. He had to do what he had to do to satisfy his own self and to satisfy his quest for finding himself. I knew he'd come back. But it gave me a chance also to find out who I am and to try new things."
Those new things included performing with other artists and acting.
"It's always good to have the opportunity to take advantage of what you can learn and the doors that become open to you," says Clemons, whom Springsteen famously praised in the lyrics to 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.'
The band was inactive for over a decade when Springsteen called for a reunion tour in 1999. A trio of new albums with the band would result in many more performances, including the recently concluded "Working on a Dream" tour.
While Springsteen's voice has changed since 1989 -- his vocals are less commanding but more soulful -- Clemons thinks the band is better than ever. And even as Springsteen approaches retirement age, the Big Man doesn't expect him to stop performing any time soon.
"I think he's stronger now than he's ever been," Clemons says. "I've never seen a day when he lost his voice. In close to 40 years we've been together, I've never seen him when he couldn't do it. And he sings pretty hard."